Read POPULAR FALLACIES : XV.—­THAT WE SHOULD LIE DOWN WITH THE LAMB of The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb‚ Volume 2, free online book, by Charles Lamb, on ReadCentral.com.

We could never quite understand the philosophy of this arrangement, or the wisdom of our ancestors in sending us for instruction to these woolly bedfellows.  A sheep, when it is dark, has nothing to do but to shut his silly eyes, and sleep if he can.  Man found out long sixes. ­Hail candle-light! without disparagement to sun or moon, the kindliest luminary of the three ­if we may not rather style thee their radiant deputy, mild viceroy of the moon! ­We love to read, talk, sit silent, eat, drink, sleep, by candle-light.  They are every body’s sun and moon.  This is our peculiar and household planet.  Wanting it, what savage unsocial nights must our ancestors have spent, wintering in caves and unillumined fastnesses!  They must have lain about and grumbled at one another in the dark.  What repartees could have passed, when you must have felt about for a smile, and handled a neighbour’s cheek to be sure that he understood it?  This accounts for the seriousness of the elder poetry.  It has a sombre cast (try Hesiod or Ossian), derived from the tradition of those unlantern’d nights.  Jokes came in with candles.  We wonder how they saw to pick up a pin, if they had any.  How did they sup? what a melange of chance carving they must have made of it! ­here one had got a leg of a goat, when he wanted a horse’s shoulder ­there another had dipt his scooped palm in a kid-skin of wild honey, when he meditated right mare’s milk.  There is neither good eating nor drinking in fresco.  Who, even in these civilised times, has never experienced this, when at some economic table he has commenced dining after dusk, and waited for the flavour till the lights came?  The senses absolutely give and take reciprocally.  Can you tell pork from veal in the dark? or distinguish Sherris from pure Malaga?  Take away the candle from the smoking man; by the glimmering of the left ashes, he knows that he is still smoking, but he knows it only by an inference; till the restored light, coming in aid of the olfactories, reveals to both senses the full aroma.  Then how he redoubles his puffs! how he burnishes! ­There is absolutely no such thing as reading, but by a candle.  We have tried the affectation of a book at noon-day in gardens, and in sultry arbours; but it was labour thrown away.  Those gay motes in the beam come about you, hovering and teazing, like so many coquets, that will have you all to their self, and are jealous of your abstractions.  By the midnight taper, the writer digests his meditations.  By the same light, we must approach to their perusal, if we would catch the flame, the odour.  It is a mockery, all that is reported of the influential Phoebus.  No true poem ever owed its birth to the sun’s light.  They are abstracted works ­

  “Things that were born, when none but the still night,
  And his dumb candle, saw his pinching throes.”

Marry, daylight ­daylight might furnish the images, the crude material; but for the fine shapings, the true turning and filing (as mine author hath it), they must be content to hold their inspiration of the candle.  The mild internal light, that reveals them, like fires on the domestic hearth, goes out in the sunshine.  Night and silence call out the starry fancies, Milton’s Morning Hymn on Paradise, we would hold a good wager, was penned at midnight; and Taylor’s richer description of a sun-rise smells decidedly of the taper.  Even ourself, in these our humbler lucubrations, tune our best measured cadences (Prose has her cadences) not unfrequently to the charm of the drowsier watchman, “blessing the doors;” or the wild sweep of winds at midnight.  Even now a loftier speculation than we have yet attempted, courts our endeavours.  We would indite something about the Solar System. ­Betty, bring the candles.